March 12, 2010

Broward School Board; We Need The Arts

Facing revenue shortfalls from the state, the Broward County School Board is considering cuts to what it considers "non-core" classes.
The choices: Four schools in the same zone would share a media specialist along with an art, music and physical education teacher; electives would be incorporated into classroom teachers' daily lessons; teachers of electives would be required to teach two classes at once, with the help of an aide; or specialty teachers would serve as consultants to their colleagues on how to incorporate electives into the curriculum.
-- the Sun-Sentinel
So let's take an already largely compromised system that is already failing to adequately educate our children, and cripple it. Interesting approach.

Art, music, phys-ed, and the library are mission-critical in educating our children. They aren't some whimsy thrown in for looks. At least, they shouldn't be.

In a nation where obesity is an increasing problem, staying fit is a necessity. The habits we pick up as children stay with us our entire lives. If exercise isn't incorporated into your day early on, there's a real probability that it never will be.

A lot of people misunderstand what art is. They think of it as decoration; pretty designs on clothes, or patterns on the wall. But that's not art, that's decoration. Art is about learning how to see the world, how to discover new perspectives on our lives. How is that not a core part of education?

Music is math. I'm not making that up; think about it. You play a major fifth, modulate to a minor's all numbers.

And libraries are on the cutting block? Does anyone really have a coherent argument that libraries are not a necessary part of learning? Didn't think so.

"Reading, 'Riting, and 'Rithmatic" are certainly the foundation of a good education, but just as auto parts are not a car, the "three R's" are not a complete education. They are the tools to assemble a framework, and if we deprive our children of the entire package, we fail them.

And I know that if you glance at the proposals, it looks like they are keeping the electives But they are not. For example "incorporating electives into a teacher's daily lessons" sounds great if you don't consider what the teacher may know about the electives. It seems to me that most teachers are at wit's end just trying to teach the existing curriculum, without four very specialized fields being dropped in their laps.

If your child is not taking PE every day, if they don't have the chance to stop by the library on their way in or out of school every day, they are not getting an adequate education. While we need to find out where the state legislature lost 60-80 million dollars, we also need to consider the hundreds of millions the Broward School Board wasted on building schools in the wrong places, building them poorly, and how many nearly empty schools we suddenly have. If they had been responsibly spending our money at the outset, we would not have anything like the crisis we now face.

At least Robin Bartlet seems to understand her responsibilities:
Board member Robin Bartleman suggested scaling back work calendars of new administrators, or looking at district contracts to see whether there are programs that aren't worth renewing.

"Those music classes, those art classes … you can't take that stuff away from kids," Bartleman said. "Sometimes that's the only thing that's sparking the interest of the kid."
-- the Sun-Sentinel
Of course, the first place cuts should always be outside the classrooms.

Of course, an easy way to drastically save on administration costs would be to eliminate the white elephant that's been crushing education; it's time to get rid of FCAT. It has hindered proper education since its inception. All it has done is drive schools to teach children how to pass the test. So now we've got students who can do well on FCAT, but they haven't learned how to learn, the most important lesson our schools should teach.

The bottom line is this: you can't do a better job of educating our children by educating them less. And that's what the Broward School Board is proposing to do.

Speak out - to the school board, to your state rep, and to your congressional reps. Remind them that they answer to us. And let them know how badly they are failing us.